The Wentworth Legacy – Chapter 3

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

As the RMS Olympic continued toward the New York Harbor, Spencer Wentworth crossed the huge hall with luxurious carpeting and splendidly decorated for the first-class passenger. He aimed toward the door leading to the outside deck, where he would join some first-class passengers enjoying the last few nautical miles of the voyage. As the ship entered the New York harbor, the fog was low but not as thick as the fog that enveloped London when he left his London home to come back to New York. Spencer could barely see the outline of the Statue of Liberty. He still could not hear the pulse of this great city from across the water.

Half an hour before sunrise, New York, the most garish of the Atlantic ports, was beautiful as seen in the distance from the waters of the harbor with the fine mist softening the outlines of the new modern tall buildings. No city port in the world could compare to New York Harbor against the magnificent backdrop of the new towering superstructures that dominated the landscape. It was an impressive sight to behold as you enter the harbor.

The foghorn whistled, and he knew they finally arrived. He would be in Meadow Brook soon.

Meadow Brook! Yes, Meadow Brook and Wentworth Hall, his childhood home.

Spencer sighed with relief that they made it to New York unscathed despite the one-night storm across the sea. He was glad to be returning home to Wentworth Hall, the 40-room mansion on more than 500-acre estate built by his grandfather. He could not wait to know what was so urgent that their family’s lawyer, Alistair Prescott, summoned him to come home.

Alistair Prescott, their family’s attorney, began his career at a small law firm but rose to prominence when he opened his law firm. During the Gilded Age, he became counsel to famous business magnates living on huge estates on Long Island North Shore. These businessmen owned palatial residences propelled by the tremendous fortunes earned in railroads, shipping, steel, oil, and coal. Alistair Prescott also represented some of the old money, names who occupied pages of the Social Register like the Wentworths. Alistair Prescott lived nearby in a 20-room brick house on a 100-acre spread in Cove Meadow named “The Lilac Walk,” appropriately named for all the lilacs grown along the driveway.

The New York harbor was busy more than ever with the bustling sound and activities as when Spencer left home three years ago. New York was still beastly loud and fast. New York, the least smoky of big cities, was beginning to stir up, suddenly awake. The water was opalescent under a gray sky, cool and dim, slightly ruffled by the wind that followed the ships from the sea. A few streamers of smoke flew above the city. The body of water was large, so the rising skyline did not appear to be towering above one as when they looked up close by from the street. The impression was of long buildings stretching down to the water’s edge 0n every side and countless low black wharves and piers. But as you get closer, they grew and grew until they seemed to soar up into heaven. Tugs, steamers, ferry boats, and sailing boats scattered near the harbor as the RMS Olympic entered the harbor with the brilliant maneuver of a skilled captain of an ocean liner. A New York Port Authority tugboat came out to join them and guided the RMS Olympic safely to its berth. Amidst the beauty of the majestic building and the silver expanse of the water, the city seemed like a fairyland until you looked down at the water closely, and instantly you knew that New York was real and dirty with all kinds of debris floating by.

New York was noisy and frantic like all big cities. The noise, bustle, and frantic pace of everything made Spencer realize that New York was quite different than the other cities he had visited in Europe. This frenetic activity made New York vibrant and appealing to the best and brightest of the world and contributed to it being the financial and intellectual capital of the United States. From the rich diversity of its inhabitants and the new immigrants coming from Europe contributing to its vitality, New York would set the pace for American and global change. In New York, everything seemed possible through modern thinking emancipated from Victorian restrictions by the “war to end all wars.” The population changed with new immigrants coming in, and of vast importance, the economic boom. Along with these catalysts was the arrival of modern technology that brought about the bicycle, Model T, radio, electricity, electric appliances, motion pictures, and towering skyscrapers.

Spencer took the Grand Staircase to the lower deck, where several passengers were streaming to get off the ship to be reunited with welcoming friends and relatives. He went down the gangway alongside those passengers on the first class. Once they stepped onto the dockside, they headed towards Immigration, where Spencer joined a long line of passengers. As he came out of Immigration with so many passengers milling around, he wound his way toward the crowd looking for Paul Conley, his family chauffeur. With a multitude of people around, it took him a while to find Paul, who had been waiting for him outside the custom section of the terminal.

Paul Conley was dressed in his chauffeur’s uniform of khaki with black trim and his chauffeur’s hat complete with white gloves. He had a few wrinkle lines on his forehead, but his facial expression was the same. Paul looked almost the same as Spencer remembered him. He was still the most cheerful man he knew.

“Hello, Mr. Spencer.” Paul saw him and greeted him, always with his first name. When he was a young lad, Paul used to address him Master Spencer.

Paul Conley was an older man, now in his fifties, and had been in service with the family as far as Spencer could remember. He was of Irish descent and spoke with his Irish brogue, which was endearing. He and his wife were the oldest members of his family’s downstairs staff. His wife was the cook, and they lived in the chauffeur’s cottage on the Wentworth estate in Meadow Brook.

“Hello, Paul,” Spencer greeted the chauffeur, and they shook hands. “How are you? How’s everything at home?”

“I’m fine, Mr. Spencer. How are you? Everything is fine at home. The cook can’t wait to serve you your favorite dessert.”

“The chocolate soufflé! Mrs. Conley made it so perfectly. I can almost smell and taste it now. I’m glad to be back.”

“She knows you like it so much, so she made it today for your homecoming. We missed you, Mr. Spencer. You’re away too long.”

“I know. It seems ages, and I was ready to come home anyway when I got the telegram from Mr. Prescott.”

A boat steward in his white uniform was coming in their direction with a couple of Louis Vuitton trunks with SAW initials on them. Paul saw him pushing a trolley with a couple of trunks. Pointing to the boat steward coming their way, Paul asked, “Mr. Spencer, are those your trunks?”

Spencer turned around and saw the boat steward with a couple of trunks. He looked at the trunks and saw his initials on them. SAW for Spencer Ashforth Wentworth. “A” stands for Ashforth, his mother’s maiden name, and his middle name. He wanted to make sure they were his. With so many Louis Vuitton trunks on board the ship, you never knew which one was yours.

He nodded. “Yes, they are mine,” he said to Paul.

Spencer motioned to the boat steward.

“You may leave them here,” Spencer said.

The steward was about to place the trunks next to Spencer. He looked at Paul and said, “I can take them to your car, sir, if you want. Where are you parked?”

“Over there.” Paul pointed to a parked Green Model “A” Town Car. They all walked together to the waiting car. Paul and the boat steward put the Louis Vuitton trunks on the rear of the car.

Spencer took some money from his pocket and gave the boat steward a tip.

“Thank you, sir,” the boat steward said.

“You’re welcome.”

“Good day, sir.”

“Good day, and thank you.”

Spencer hopped on the passenger seat in the back of the car, and Paul took his driver’s seat. Spencer could smell the newness of the car.

“How long have you driven this car?” he asked Paul.

“Just a month, Mr. Spencer. It just came out of the factory. Your father was one of the few lucky ones to purchase it. Ford just introduced it in February.”

“Great looking car.”

“It is, and it drives beautifully.”

They drove through New York City. They had only gone few blocks from the terminal, and already the city was teeming with activity. All around them, people moved fast and heedless of the traffic. Men darted in and out hurriedly across intersections, dodging oncoming cars and carriages. A man entered a coffee house with a newspaper tucked under his arm, and they could smell coffee roasting and biscuits baking from the street. Another man came out of the coffee house eating his sandwich as he walked briskly toward his destination. A woman wearing a fancy hat and carrying a shopping bag came out of a store and walked fast. Spencer kept reminding himself that this was New York, his hometown where everyone was in a hurry.

As they drove their way up Tenth Avenue, they saw vast freight yards and factories that lined the street and the frenzied activities around them. Teams of horses drew huge rolls of paper to printers’ shops or bales of cotton and wool to textile mills. They passed slaughterhouses with their malodorous smell as well as soap factories with their dizzying fragrance. Delivery men were loading their wagon with newly made home furnishings. They heard the men shouting orders to one another in various accents like a bubbling Babylonian in the Bible. Despite their bustling activities, New York was nothing like London. It was still young, a new city where every street and building spoke of speed and modern ways. It was the city of the future and a city of commerce. The new buildings, with their soaring architecture, bespoke of progress and ambitious goals.

Ahead of them, a wagon laden with building materials moved so slowly, heading for uptown where most construction was going on. They heard more cursing and yelling from drivers as they fought their way through Eight Avenue into midtown. Slowly, the factories had now given way to neat, well-kept shops and huge houses. New mansions were sprouting everywhere. Spencer’s family owned one of these big mansions on Fifth Avenue. The house stood back from the avenue and was approached by wide steps leading to an iron-grilled entrance. Spencer was not going to his home in the city but going straight to Meadow Brook. His family wanted him home at Wentworth Hall in Meadow Brook.

They drove to the Queensborough Bridge, which was built just over ten years ago, into Long Island under a light shower. Spencer caught a glimpse of the Steinway Piano Factory sign. They passed wagons carrying newly minted pianos from Steinway Piano Factory for delivery to Long Island customers with newfound money. Paul slowed down and then picked up speed when they reached Frederick Floyd Parkway, the road leading to Long Island.

As the green Model “A” Town Car roared up the Frederick Floyd Parkway, the rain had stopped, and the sun began to filter through the gray clouds. Paul, the Wentworth chauffeur for some twenty-plus years, knew the road like the palm of his hand, anticipating the bumps and twists, slowing when necessary and picking up speed when there was a clear stretch of road before them. Spencer gazed dully at the surrounding landscape. His mind turned to the telegram he received from his family’s attorney. Why did the attorney want him home? What was so pressing that he had to come home immediately? The answer, he would soon find out. Alistair Prescott did not explain. Spencer was intrigued, and the timing was right. He was getting tired of London and was wanting to go home anyway.

Paul drove quickly along the parkway, and after an hour, they were already well beyond Mineola and headed toward Westbury and making good time. The traffic now was relatively light. Spencer settled back in his seat and closed his eyes. In an hour, he would be home in Meadow Brook. They passed Westbury into Jericho, past the Meadow Brook Country Club, where his parents and other family members went fox hunting or enjoyed watching the polo matches.

Meadow Brook was a wealthy village in the town of Oyster Bay. It was located between Jericho to the south and Oyster Bay to the north. In the last century, Meadow Brook was a farm and woodland backwater. Still, it changed drastically as wealthy millionaires built immense estates in and around Meadow Brook with sweeping vistas and a whole cadre of servants to maintain the high standard of living. By the mid-1920s, there were so many huge estates in Meadow Brook, a part of what would become the North Shore Gold Coast. The North Shore is the area along Long Island’s northern coast, bordering Long Island Sound, where the terrain is hilly and the beaches more rocky than the flat land and sandy beaches of the South Shore. The South Shore is the area along Long Island’s Atlantic Ocean shoreline.

A couple of miles further north, they entered an imposing gate, one of the largest set of eighteenth-century iron gates in Long Island. This one-of-a-kind gate was imported from England when the senior George Wentworth, Spencer’s grandfather, built his house here surrounded by over 500 acres of a rolling landscape. Since England encountered hard times after World War I, some of these national treasures of England found their way onto American soil into the hands of wealthy Americans amidst some protests from the British. Skilled artisans superbly crafted the intricate design of the magnificent gate. There was no mistake about it. The gate had a big “W” on top, with the beginning and end of the letter turning in a curlicue like the swirling curve of an unfurling fern frond.

They entered the gatehouse, a brick building with an arch opening in the center acting as porte cochere. There were four mullioned windows on either side of the arch. The arch had a keystone at the center on top, which gave it an elegant look. On the roof in the center of the building were a cupola and a widow’s walk with a railing around it. There were two chimneypieces on both ends of the roof. A trio of dormer windows with the eaves looking like eyebrows stared at you as you arrived. A molding of egg and dart design graced the eaves. There were some plantings of shrubs and trees on both sides of the driveway leading to the gatehouse.

They continued the two-mile drive, with the road twisting and turning like an enchanted ribbon as they went along. They passed long meadows with grass swaying in the wind. Some trees, oak, maples, hemlock, elm, and pine trees, were scattered about in the distance. They passed a colonnade of trees whose branches nodded and intertwined with one another and formed a canopy and darkened the drive. Then the drive opened up to a clearing. They drove through rows of pleached hornbeam trees shorn to perfection as they neared the house leading to the cobbled courtyard of Wentworth Hall.

“Mr. Spencer?” Paul slowed the car and glanced at the mirror.

“Yes, Paul. What is it?”

“I just realized you hadn’t seen the house with the new extension. The house that you knew had tripled in size.”

“No, I haven’t.”

“You’ll love it. Your grandfather extended the house right after you left for England. He had in mind a large and impressive estate just like those you see in England. Since the house sits on the highest elevation on the estate, it looks magnificent. The architect made it look like it had been there all the time. I mean, the addition blends in beautifully with the original house. You’d think it was always there. He added indoor tennis & swimming pavilion, several holes of golf on the property, a U-shaped carriage house for his five Rolls Royces, and enlarged the gardens.”

“Really? Leave it to Grandfather.”

“He hired Delano & Aldrich, the New York architects, to do the extensive renovation and extension to the original house. They did a wonderful job.”

“What happened with Warren & Wetmore, who built the house in 1904?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Spencer. But Delano & Aldrich are designing plenty of houses around the area, and I guess your grandfather liked him. I heard Delano and Aldrich was also commissioned by Mr. Egerton Winthrop Jr. down the road to building a house modeled after Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington.”

“Well, I guess that says something,” Spencer said.

“There has been so much construction lately. All the new millionaires are moving in and building huge houses. Further down the road, there is a French Normandy-style home built for Mr. & Mrs. Benjamin Moore just after you left. I understand this one has a moat around the mansion.”

“A moat? What for? Did they think the Vikings will invade them?” Spencer said with a smile on his face. Paul was amused.

Spencer thought for a moment about this new information from Paul. His grandfather wanted to keep up with the Joneses, although he didn’t have to. His family had been here before all of them. After all, his grandfather was a member of the Sons of the Revolution. Not many people could say that. Maybe he liked Delano & Aldrich better than Warren & Wetmore with that grandiose design of which they were well known. That includes the chapel at Greenwood Cemetery, where most of the notables, including his deceased ancestors, were buried, which reminded them that his architectural-designed structure would be the last thing they would be in before they went to their grave. Warren & Wetmore’s designs were too ornate, and Delano & Aldrich’s designs were something new, and blending the two designs was quite refreshing.

Paul started saying, “You know, your grandfather always thought of you. He always talked about you when I drove him to the city. He thought you’d love the house since you love England very much. He even hired the best landscape architect, Umberto Innocenti, to design the ground to complement the house. Trees, hedges, and ponds were arranged to develop walking paths. Various gardens were installed and planted with blooming flowers and shrubs to provide color at all seasons. The result is fabulous. Since the house is so far from the main entrance and sits on top of a hill surrounded by a vast tract of rolling land, it looks magnificent.”

“I can’t wait to get to see it.”

“We’re just a few hundred yards away.”

Spencer looked out at the surrounding vista and felt a pang of anguish as he thought of his grandfather. He was sad that he missed his funeral. How he wished he was home during his dying days. He wondered what he thought when he added the extension. The old house was grand enough as it was. Why add more to it? Paul just mentioned his grandfather said he would like the new home. What does that mean? He didn’t see any reason why not.

There were many regions where there were a lot of great estates. Many significant cities had great estates like Philadelphia’s Main Line, Pittsburgh’s North Side, Boston’s own North Shore, New York’s Westchester County, and the Hudson Valley, Fairfield County in Connecticut, Chicago’s North Shore, and the list goes on. But Long Island was definitely where the concentration of them was, especially on the North Shore. East End resort areas and part of the South Shore in Long Island also boasted some magnificent estates. Long Island’s natural beauty, its pristine shoreline and ocean beaches, proximity and easy access to New York City, and its suitability for yachting and other recreational pursuits made it the perfect place for the leisure class. These areas were the pinnacle of grandeur in all styles of architecture and the surrounding acreage with its beautiful gardens that only money could buy.

One only had to look in the Social Register and be amazed at how many of them owned magnificent homes on Long Island and another home on Fifth Avenue in New York City. They owned large estates on Long Island, which they called places. Some had palaces in Newport called cottages, duplexes on Fifth Avenue, which they simply called houses. They also lived on the better streets of America’s larger cities and the more affluent of these cities’ suburbs. The Astors, the Hearsts, the Morgans, the Vanderbilts, the Whitneys, and many others, had built palatial homes on Long Island. Though Newport was probably the most famous gathering place of the American rich, Long Island possessed the greatest and most exciting assortment of houses designed for the rich and the super-rich. Here was the playground for the very rich where they indulged in fox hunting and polo games at the Meadow Brook Country Club, yachting, fishing, aviation, golf, tennis, and duck shooting.

As they rounded the bend, Spencer saw the outline of the house perched on top of a hill. They were almost near the house. As they approached, he saw the magnificent brick structure, a lovely Georgian-style mansion peeking from another wrought iron gate flanked on both sides with a brick pillar topped by a round ball and high yew hedges flanking the gate. He could see the brick façade with its fluid lines and classical pr oportions that gave it such perfect balance. Two pairs of magnificent reeded columns of the Corinthian order capitals flanked an archway of the handsome portico with wide marble front steps. Several chimneypieces were protruding from the rooftop of the central building and many more from the adjacent wings. The house, with its symmetrical design, had an identical wing on both sides. Few steps to the portico lead to the central entrance hall. There were numerous tall shining windows, looking out onto fine green lawns and gardens.

They reached the cobbled courtyard of Wentworth Hall. The car drew to a halt in front of the steps leading up to the massive front doors. Spencer looked up at the three-story center block of the house flanked by two large wings. The whole house was rendered in brick and roofed with slate. He peeked through the car window and spoke to Paul.

“Good Lord, I know what you mean. I feel like I haven’t left England.” He laughed.

“That’s it, sir. The inside is as grand as the outside. Your grandfather said it’s like an English country estate.”

“Well, it sure looks like one.”

The Wentworth Legacy is available for purchase at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

The Wentworth Legacy – Chapter 2

The Wentworth Legacy

 A Long Island Novel

To read Chapter 1, click here.

Kirkus Review:

Morgan (The Iron Butterfly, 2015, etc.) offers a historical novel about a wealthy young man struggling to choose between marrying the woman he loves and maintaining his family’s legacy.

In 1927, 25-year-old Spencer Wentworth receives a telegram calling him home to New York City from his travels in London. When he returns to his family’s estate on the North Shore of Long Island, known as the “Gold Coast,” he’s devastated to learn that his grandfather has died. Worse, the old man has bequeathed all his personal holdings to Spencer. Daunted by his new obligations regarding the family banking business and the Wentworth Hall estate, he decides to work as a teller in order to learn his business from the ground up. Meanwhile, he grows emotionally attached to his sister’s friend, Lorna Beckett, a middle-class girl of striking beauty. At the bank, Spencer learns quickly, but his success is eclipsed by the impending economic depression; he worries that his growing debts will result in the loss of the family’s business and home. As a last-ditch effort to salvage the family portfolio, he forsakes Lorna and attaches himself to Sally Sinclair, an affluent longtime acquaintance, as he’s convinced that marrying her is the responsible choice. But will he amend his path to contentment before it’s too late? This plot-driven, emotionally complex tale effectively details Spencer’s determination to sacrifice his own happiness in favor of his family’s success. In accessible prose, the novel provides numerous historical tidbits about Long Island and Manhattan in the age that immediately preceded the Great Depression (“the arrival of modern technology…brought about the bicycle, Model T, radio, electricity, electric appliances, motion pictures and towering skyscrapers”). With harrowing intensity, Morgan also illustrates the pervasive anxiety just before a disastrous era hit. Overall, she delivers an engrossing love story while also depicting surprising burdens borne by New York’s wealthiest families during the late 1920s.

An engaging tale of a young man’s coming-of-age that will appeal to fans of complicated family sagas.

Chapter 2

Leaden gray clouds hovered across the sky. The wind was still howling, but the heavy rain that had fallen hard in the morning had slowed down to a drizzle. Spencer Wentworth had left his London home in Knightsbridge in heavy rain to go to Southampton to board his ship, which would take him back to the United States. The morning was cold and damp, and he could feel the chill dampness even underneath his heavy wool coat, but it did not dampen his spirit as he looked forward to coming home after three years abroad.

At the pier, passengers started arriving with their vast amount of luggage and trunks. Louis Vuitton luggage and trunks with the LV pattern and some with the checkerboard pattern with a wood brace were prominent among the wealthy passengers. Others brought large suitcases for gowns, tuxedos, dresses, and business suits. There were special boxes for footwear also. There was smaller luggage for whatever they needed while on board. The big ones were held on the ship’s baggage hold. Some passengers checked their luggage straight to the ship from their home location, confident that they would be on their ship when they boarded the ship.

Passengers would dress up to board a ship, even those on the third class, mostly in black or gray with few exceptions. The younger passengers opted for a brighter color. They brought books, magazines to read,  and diaries to write down their thought and experience. They carried cash, and some had a letter of introduction. The rich had their jewelry and other valuables stored at the purser’s vault for safekeeping. Everyone seemed to have a gold watch, with some men had a pocket watch.

Spencer found his way amidst the huge crowd at the pier, where men in topcoats, fedoras, and caps and women with large hats mounded with sewn-on flowers carried their umbrellas, bags, and other belongings outside the terminal. Toddlers and young children all bundled up in heavy coats held on tight to their mothers or nannies. At the far side of the building, the RMS Olympic’s hull loomed above the harbor in a black wall of steel with the funnels spewing braids of gray smoke into the mist above, getting ready to depart as thousands of well-wishers gathered along the pier.

There were three different classes of passenger cabins at RMS Olympic based on wealth and social class. The wealthiest passengers traveled in first class. They were mostly members of the upper class, wealthy businessmen, politicians, socialites, professional athletes, and others who could afford the first-class ticket.

Spencer was traveling alone in first-class. Some in first-class traveled with their staff – maids, nurses, governesses for their kids, valets, cooks, and chauffeurs. They were given the list of first-class passengers, a “who’s who” of the rich and famous. Mothers made sure their daughters meet rich bachelors while on board. Spencer was a target of some mothers for their daughters.

The first-class passengers had the most luxurious accommodations, some with a private promenade deck. They enjoyed several amenities, including large dining rooms, a lavish Grand Staircase, a smoking room for men, a Veranda Cafe decorated with palm trees, and several other places for meals and entertainment, a saltwater swimming pool, electric and Turkish bath, gymnasium, a squash court, and a barbershop.

The middle-class travelers, which included middle-class English and American families, clergy, authors, professors, some tourists, and the ship’s musicians, were the second-class passengers. The musicians were not considered members of the crew but worked with an agency under contract to White Star Line. Second-class passengers ate at the dining room for the second-lass passengers. They had their library, and the children could read children’s books at their own library and played shuffleboard at the second-class promenade.

Some traveled alone or in small family groups. Several groups of mothers were traveling alone with their young children. They would be joining their husband, who had left for America before them, to find jobs in the new country and saved for their families’ passage to America.

The third-class, or steerage passengers were mostly immigrants moving to the United States for a better life. Compared to other ships, they had reasonable accommodation. They had their dining room with chairs, not benches as in other ocean liners, and the third-class kitchen staff prepared their meals.

Although single men and women in third-class were separated, they have their own cabins; women in the stern and men in the bow section of the ship. There were two public bathtubs, one for men and the other for women. They could play cards or chess in the third-class common room. The third class even had their own smoking room, and children played in the common area.

The White Star Line’s trio of Olympic-class ocean liners was RMS Olympic, RMS Titanic, and HMHS Britannic. The RMS Olympic was the lead ship and the largest transatlantic ocean liner in the world for two periods during 1911-1913, interrupted only by slightly larger RMS Titanic. The White Star Line’s trio of Olympic-class ocean liners’ name ends with ‘ic’, paralleling Cunard line ending with ‘ia’. All of them had nine decks, of which seven were for passenger use. They also have four funnels, but one was a dummy funnel used as a huge ventilation shaft.

Two did not have long service lives and were lost early in their careers. RMS Titanic sank on the night of April 15, 1912, after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic, claiming more than fifteen hundred lives. HMHS Britannic sank on November 21, 1916, after hitting a mine laid by the German minelayer submarine U79 in a barrier off Kea Channel in the Mediterranean during World War I killing thirty people. Unlike her younger sister ships, the RMS Olympic, the lead vessel, enjoyed a long and illustrious career and had a career spanning twenty-four years. During World War I, RMS Olympic was used as a troopship earning her the nickname “Old Reliable”, and her captain was knighted in 1919 for valuable services in connection with the transport of troops.

Spencer boarded the RMS Olympic to take him home to New York. Once aboard the ship, Spencer was led by a steward through one of the three elevators behind the lavish Grand Staircase onto his luxurious cabin, a stateroom equipped with a private bathroom on B Deck starboard side. The steward told him he could have his meals in the ship’s large and luxurious dining room, in the more intimate A La Carte Restaurant, or at the Café Parisian, giving the first-class passengers more options for their dining pleasure. Spencer deposited his small suitcases and made sure his trunks and shoe case had arrived. He thanked the steward, gave him a tip before he left. He tested the locks on his suitcases and trunks and then went back out to join the crowd on the A deck promenade, which was wide open along the ship’s whole length.

Behind the Grand Staircase were three elevators that went up to A deck and down to E deck. Since he was only going one flight, he opted to use the Grand Staircase with two rows of stairs bisected by a middle railing. At the foot of the Grand Staircase stood a putti statue on a plinth holding a torch lamp. Above a fancy grillwork starting from the newel of carved acanthus leaves, there was a set of sweeping railings. An elaborate niche for a wall clock stood prominently below the domed ceiling at the center of the top landing, surrounded by paneled walls.

He saw family and friends of passengers were allowed easy access to come aboard without question to see passengers off. He looked out to sea, and it was rough and metal gray. He wished it was better weather to cross the Atlantic, but it couldn’t be helped. Weather was always unpredictable, and so was life. You could not know what would happen next. It happened to him just as suddenly as the weather changed. He had not envisaged coming back to New York this year, although he missed home once in a while and wanted to go back. He still could not believe that within a matter of days, he would be in New York.

As the whistle blew and the stewards ordered the visitors to disembark, Spencer began to relax, knowing he would be home in six days. He was drained, mentally and physically. The last few days were hectic trying to get everything in order before his unexpected departure. The break-off of his lease to his home at Knightsbridge was left to the care of his London solicitor. Regarding the shipment of his belongings to New York, he gave instructions to Mr. Granger on what to ship and the rest to be given away. His bank account had to be closed. All of these things had to be taken care of. He sought the help of some trusted friends to help him out with the details of his leave-taking. He found a job for Mr. Granger and his wife and gave them a hefty bonus for which they were grateful, and they wished him good luck and safe crossing.

Leaving England was a hard thing for him to do. He was getting used to a life of leisure. He loved the English countryside, and he was fascinated with the English ladies of the aristocracy. With his impressive credentials, a man with deep pockets, and good looks, he was constantly invited to parties. Mothers of the young English ladies vied for his attention to get him to their parties and be introduced to their daughters. As his association with the British high society broadened, he found English women were more reserved than their American counterparts, but no one seemed to capture his heart. He did not think he had found the right woman to share his life with. He was having such a grand time and did not want to be tied down with anyone. Still, the invitations kept on coming. At the start of the London Season, he was invited incessantly to fancy balls.

Spencer was glad to be able to book a passage to New York on the RMS Olympic. So, in a cloudy spring afternoon in early April 1927, Spencer stood with his face toward the wind, gripping the RMS Olympic railas it set sail from the White Star piers of Southampton. With the wind blowing vigorously, he looked sad and nostalgic about leaving. He realized it would be a while before he would set foot on English soil again, if ever.

As the RMS Olympic left port, life at sea began to set in, and passengers had to adapt themselves to the assigned tablemates or dined alone. Like Spencer, unaccompanied travelers faced the prospect of being seated with someone he had nothing in common. If he was lucky, he could meet a pleasant fellow or a beautiful maiden, and romance got kindled, or he could get dumped. If he was unlucky, he could be seated with a boor and be miserable the entire voyage. But the food was always excellent and plentiful, even in third-class. In first-class where Spencer was, it was lavish. They had soups, hors d’oeuvres, and delicious entrees and desserts at all meals. There was plenty of liquor – several cases of Canadian Club Whiskey, Black and White Whiskey, Plymouth Gin, French red wine, Chablis, and barrels of stout and ale. Passengers drank and smoked a lot which was a significant source of profit for the White Star Line. There were thousands of cigarettes and cigars from Havana, Manila, and the United States. For those passengers who brought pipes, there were several hundred pounds of loose tobacco in 4-ounce tins. Some passengers also got their own. During the voyage, the scent of combusted tobacco was ever-present, especially after dinner.

Spencer did not mind sitting with strangers at his assigned table. He saw it as a way of meeting new friends. It was on his second night at sea when he was having dinner with a new group of passengers when all of a sudden, someone said, ‘Either I am getting a little drunk, or it is getting rough.’ They found themselves swaying and leaning sideways in their chairs. They heard a crash and the sound of falling cutlery. At their table, the wine glass toppled and rolled over as they steadied their plate and forks. They looked at each other with expressions of profound horror.

Silence followed the crash, then a high, nervous babble of laughter. Stewards laid napkins on the pools of spilled wine. They tried to resume the conversation, but all were waiting as the next significant blow, and it came heavier than the last. The ship rocked from side to side. Some women at their table started rising and saying good-night. The dining room was emptying fast.

Then, there was another climb, then another drop. The stewards were at work straightening things up, shutting things down, and putting away insecure items. Spencer left with two couples and aimed for the lounge. On their way to the lounge, they had to cling to a pillar. It was almost deserted when they got there. The band played but no one danced. A few passengers read books, a few playing bridge, some men drinking brandy and smoking cigars, but most of the guests had disappeared to their cabin. Then the two couples decided it was time to call it a day, and Spencer was left alone. He decided to walk around the ship on one of the covered decks where the wind howled, and the spray leaped up from the darkness and smashed white and brown liquid against the glass screen. He then decided it was time to go to his stateroom and go to bed.

He went to his stateroom with the ship swaying back and forth. She was rolling now as well as pitching, and his head rang with every creak and thud. All he could think of was the RMS Titanic, and he hoped and prayed to make it to New York. He did not get much sleep that night.

The next day, the wind had dropped a little, but it was still blowing hard, and there was a very heavy swell. Spencer decided to go to breakfast. He went around the promenade, but it was hard going. When the ship rolled heavily, he held on to the rail. He could see the grey sky and the black water outside. The howl of the wind was now subdued. There were few people about that day. Only the brave souls were about, but they did nothing except sit rather glumly in their armchairs, drank occasionally, and exchanged congratulations on not being seasick. A web of lifelines stretched across the lounge, and they seemed like boxers, roped into the ring.

The wind stopped howling, and the sun was up on the fourth day. Passengers started coming out on the deck and began socializing again. Spencer wanted to be alone for most of the day till dinnertime.

He would sit on the deck with a steamer rug over his shoulders, reading or just staring at the sea and wondering what lay ahead in his future. He would give some extra cash to the steward to obtain him a good seat. The quality of mid-ocean wind and sun was curiously invigorating. Sometimes, he would take a break from reading and enjoyed watching some of the games played on deck during the daytime. He found it quite entertaining and relieved some of the boredom he found unbearable.

In the evening, there were concerts and talent shows in the first-class lounge. The room was large and warm and carpeted in maroon and beige with two grey marble fireplaces with serpentine mantelpiece in the front and rear walls and a curb of a pierced scroll-and-shell pattern. The lounge was the finest room built in a ship and as opulent as a stateroom in a palace. The room was decorated in the Louis XV style based on interiors at the Palace of Versailles. The walls were paneled with finest English oak carved with delicate boiserie decorated with scrolled floral-and-shell ornamentation. At the entrance to the First-Class restaurant, there was a revolving door, a feature that only appeared on RMS Olympic, which needed a way of keeping sea breezes out of the room.

As the days passed, he began to enjoy his voyage more and more and made new friends, such as one does on an ocean crossing. Unhappily, the voyage was nearing its end. Before the crossing was over, Spencer Wentworth, like most young people in the first-class, discovered that the third-class lounge was far livelier than their public rooms’ stuffy uprightness. All the most attractive girls on the ship seemed to be in third-class, and they were having more fun at their party. However, just as the young men in the first-class were trying to go to the third-class, some bold young passengers from the third-class were trying to sneak into the first-class. All they needed was a dinner jacket and the audacity to break the barrier.

How ironic could that be? Spencer began to see the difference between the social strata of society. He was never exposed to this situation before. The things that he took for granted, he found out was very important to some young people. He also discovered that the less privileged class had more fun in life than the upper class.

Spencer found some young men of his age from the third-class to trade places, so they sneaked into the third-class. It was awkward at first, but as the music got louder and livelier, they forgot their inhibition and joined in the fun. The dance got wilder as the evening progressed. By the time they left the third-class and met their counterparts to retrieve their jackets, Spencer could not care less if he got his jacket back. He had the most wonderful time of his life, which he would never forget.

The Wentworth Legacy is available for purchase at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

The Wentworth Legacy – Chapter 1

Kirkus Review:

Morgan (The Iron Butterfly, 2015, etc.) offers a historical novel about a wealthy young man struggling to choose between marrying the woman he loves and maintaining his family’s legacy.

In 1927, 25-year-old Spencer Wentworth receives a telegram calling him home to New York City from his travels in London. When he returns to his family’s estate on the North Shore of Long Island, known as the “Gold Coast,” he’s devastated to learn that his grandfather has died. Worse, the old man has bequeathed all his personal holdings to Spencer. Daunted by his new obligations regarding the family banking business and the Wentworth Hall estate, he decides to work as a teller in order to learn his business from the ground up. Meanwhile, he grows emotionally attached to his sister’s friend, Lorna Beckett, a middle-class girl of striking beauty. At the bank, Spencer learns quickly, but his success is eclipsed by the impending economic depression; he worries that his growing debts will result in the loss of the family’s business and home. As a last-ditch effort to salvage the family portfolio, he forsakes Lorna and attaches himself to Sally Sinclair, an affluent longtime acquaintance, as he’s convinced that marrying her is the responsible choice. But will he amend his path to contentment before it’s too late? This plot-driven, emotionally complex tale effectively details Spencer’s determination to sacrifice his own happiness in favor of his family’s success. In accessible prose, the novel provides numerous historical tidbits about Long Island and Manhattan in the age that immediately preceded the Great Depression (“the arrival of modern technology…brought about the bicycle, Model T, radio, electricity, electric appliances, motion pictures and towering skyscrapers”). With harrowing intensity, Morgan also illustrates the pervasive anxiety just before a disastrous era hit. Overall, she delivers an engrossing love story while also depicting surprising burdens borne by New York’s wealthiest families during the late 1920s.

An engaging tale of a young man’s coming-of-age that will appeal to fans of complicated family sagas.

Chapter 1

He walked quietly into the entrance hall, where only one light was turned on. The whole house was dark except for the table lamp, dimly lit, casting a shadow across the hallway. As he walked in, a light yellow piece of paper caught his attention right away. It was staring him right in the face as he opened the door. It was placed neatly on the silver tray on the entrance hall table in his home in Knightsbridge, an exclusive residential and retail district in Central London within walking distance from Hyde Park and Harrods. It was odd that there was something on the silver tray.

Mr. Granger, his butler, a man of medium height about 5’10” with a round face and bespectacled and an air of authority, delivered his mail to him on the silver tray when they came in the day but usually nothing at night. He remembered telling Mr. Granger not to wait for him when he left his house earlier that evening to go to the 1927 Spring Ball at Grosvenor Square. He knew he would be very late. It was now almost two o’clock in the morning. Mr. Granger must have left the yellow piece of paper on the silver tray, knowing he could not miss it when he came home.

Spencer Wentworth had too much to drink at the party and was too intoxicated to comprehend what he saw. He picked up the yellow piece of paper gingerly, opened it, and tried to focus his eye with difficulty. It was a telegram. He started to read.

The telegram said, “COME HOME STOP URGENT STOP.” Just five words, so powerful in their brevity. He stared at them and frowned, his mind slowly absorbing what he read. It was not what he expected to see coming home late at night. He read it one more time. “COME HOME STOP URGENT STOP,” it said. There was no explanation and no denying it was urgent. It said so. He looked at the signature. He thought it might be from home, from his father, George Wentworth Jr., but it was not. Their family lawyer, Alistair Prescott, signed the telegram. “Why would Prescott send me a telegram? What could be so urgent?” He wondered what it all meant.

He put the telegram in his pocket and turned on the sconce light on the stairway. Then he switched off the table lamp light and went straight upstairs to his bedroom. He could not do much tonight and decided to deal with the telegram in the morning when he would be sober.

Upon entering his bedroom, he took off his clothes and draped them on a chair by his secretary desk. He took off his cufflinks and his pocket watch and placed them on his bureau. He sat by the edge of his bed, took off his shoes, and donned his pajamas, which Mr. Granger had laid on his bed earlier and got ready for bed. He felt tired and exhausted and just wanted to go to sleep.

He turned off all the lights and slipped under the bed covers. As soon as he hit the pillow, he forgot about the telegram and went right to sleep.

A few hours later, he woke up with a start and rubbed his eyes. It was still dark. He wondered what time it was. He closed his eyes again but could not go back to sleep. He opened his eyes, and he stared at the ceiling. He suddenly remembered the telegram.

He got up, turned on the light on his night table, and walked to the chair where his clothes were. He remembered he put the telegram in his pocket but could not remember what was in the telegram. He turned on the light on his desk, retrieved the telegram from his pocket, and read it. “COME HOME STOP URGENT STOP,” it said. He placed the telegram on his desk.

He walked toward the window and opened it. The night air was cool, and he could feel the breeze on his face. The crescent moon was casting a shadow on the landscape. He stared at the pattern of the opposite rooftops and walls of the nearby buildings, barely able to recognize their familiar outlines. Aside from a couple of night stragglers on the street walking by, the street was quiet and empty.

He thought of home, but unpleasant thoughts came circling in his mind. He thought of reasons why the family lawyer wanted him home. He wondered if it had anything to do with his grandfather’s death, George Wentworth Sr. It had to be. He was sorry he missed the funeral. That was the last time when he received another telegram, a few months ago. It was from his father informing him of his grandfather’s death. His father said there was no need for him to come home, so he stayed in London. Now the lawyer wanted him home, and it was urgent. “Why?” he wondered.

Spencer Wentworth, a tall, lean, and handsome young man, in his mid-twenties with blond hair and deep blue eyes and a penchant for expensive clothes, was a scion of one of the fabulously wealthy families in New York. He loved to party and had never done any work in his entire life. He grew up in a privileged environment with all that money could buy. His father, George Wentworth Jr., was the only child of George Wentworth Sr., the founder of Wentworth Bank. His mother, Margaret Ashforth Wentworth, a beautiful debutante from Tuxedo Park when George Wentworth Jr. met her at her Debutante Ball and married her within the year of their acquaintance, also came from a prominent old money family in New York.

Spencer and his family lived in Meadow Brook on the North Shore of Long Island in a huge estate called Wentworth Hall. It was on a high elevation surrounded by over 500 acres of land where one could even see the Atlantic Ocean on the south shore on a clear day. Spencer’s grandfather, George Wentworth Sr., built the Wentworth Hall. They also had another large house in New York City on Fifth Avenue near Central Park and a winter residence in Palm Beach, Florida. The Wentworth family belonged to several private clubs, most notably the Piping Rock Club, the Meadow Brook Country Club, Knickerbocker Club, and Colony Club.

Spencer Wentworth, aged twenty-five, and his sister Emma, four years younger than he, always lived in luxury. They grew up with a nanny, a tutor, and a governess always watching their every move. A butler managed the house, assisted by a housekeeper and a cook. Under their management, there was a large staff of servants in all their homes: footmen to help the butler, upstairs and downstairs maids who took care of the maintenance of the house, stable men to take care of the horses and the stable, gardeners to take care of the grounds and chauffeurs to manage the garage and the dozen cars that replaced the horse-drawn carriages and have them ready at will for the family. Work at the house started in the morning’s early hours before the family members left their beds. In the hierarchy of a large household, the scullery maids, parlor maids, and chambermaids scuttled about, removing the remains of the previous day’s fires in all the grates, polishing, dusting, so that when the family arose, everything was ready for them and the work continued till the family retired to bed.

Spencer and his sister, Emma, were tutored at home before he went to boarding school at aged eight, and Emma went to Miss Potters School for the Girls. From boarding school, Spencer went on to prep school in New Hampshire and on to an Ivy League school like all men of his social standing would do. Spencer went to Harvard as expected of him, a Wentworth, like all men in his family, did.

Before the 1920s, few people other than the wealthy children attended college and were almost universally men. In the 1920s, effectively freed from tradition by World War I, young people began swarming colleges – to learn, but also, for the first time for many, simply to have fun. By the end of the decade, 20 percent of American college-age youth were on campuses. Few women did. Emma went to Vassar College later on. A famous limerick of the time went: She doesn’t drink. She doesn’t pet. She hasn’t been to college yet.

Three years ago, after his college graduation from Harvard, Spencer left the United States and sailed for Europe on a grand tour in June 1924. Although he went away to boarding school since he was eight years old, his sojourn abroad was the longest he had been away from home. At boarding school, he could always go home on holidays. Going away to Europe was another matter. It was too long to make the crossing, and so he stayed in Europe. He spent his days enjoying the life of a bachelor with plenty of money to pay for whatever his heart desired. With his good looks and a never-ending supply of money in his bank account, he was able to mingle easily with the moneyed class and the aristocracy.

Spencer wished he was home when his grandfather died. He was very close to his grandfather, who was instrumental in why he was in Europe enjoying the good life. It was his grandfather who insisted he take the grand tour of Europe after his college graduation. He believed that a young man of his stature should and was expected of him. It would be an excellent education for him to see the world. Harvard education was not enough, according to his grandfather. His grandfather told his parents that he would finance his sojourn in Europe and money would be deposited in his bank account every first of the month, and so he sailed for England on the RMS Olympic, the largest ship in the world at that time.

Being the most luxurious transatlantic ship and the first in a new class of superliners at that time, RMS Olympic made her maiden voyage on June 14, 1911, and arrived in New York seven days later, on June 21, 1911. The press gave her extensive coverage, and she attracted much attention from the public. After she arrived in New York, RMS Olympic was opened up to the public and received thousands of visitors, and more spectators came to watch her depart from the New York harbor for her first return trip.

RMS Olympic attracted the rich and famous of the day during its run, including Charlie Chaplin and Prince Edward, then Prince of Wales among the celebrities that she carried. One of the RMS Olympic’s attractions was that she was nearly identical to the RMS Titanic, which sank after hitting an iceberg on her maiden voyage. Many passengers wanted to experience the voyage of the ill-fated sister ship of RMS Olympic. Spencer was one of them and enjoyed his voyage to England three years ago.

For his first year abroad, he visited most countries in Europe except Germany. He went to England, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria, enjoying various cities along the Mediterranean coast, hopping from club to club, going to art museums, attending concerts and operas, and having a great time. He played the field, and women flocked to him like bees to honey where ever he went, but he refused to get hooked with somebody for too long. He met plenty of expatriates from the States doing mostly the same thing as he did. He enjoyed the nightlife in Paris and Monaco tremendously. He found life at the Riviera to his liking with the more intellectual attractions a city had to offer.

In the first half of the 20th century, the Riviera was visited frequently by writers and artists, including Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Pablo Picasso. While Europe was still recovering from WWI and the American dollar was strong, wealthy Americans started arriving. Edith Wharton wrote The Age of Innocence at a villa near Hyeres, winning the Pulitzer Prize, the first woman to do so. F. Scott Fitzgerald first visited with his wife, Zelda, in 1924 and eventually stayed at Saint-Raphael, where he wrote much of The Great Gatsby and began writing Tender is the Night.

Spencer loved Italy with all the arts, the museums, and the opera, which he enjoyed tremendously. He went beyond Europe to Istanbul. He enjoyed and admired the exotic atmosphere of the place. He spent a couple of weeks in India and visited the Taj Mahal. After his trip to India, he went back to Europe and stayed a month in the south of France, then on to England again, where he wandered in the countryside and fell in love with it.

While touring the Continent for a year, he discovered he liked England the best. The English countryside reminded him of home with its sloping vistas and grand houses with fabulous gardens. The City of London was a vibrant place, and he enjoyed the social scene there and loved hobnobbing with the elites of London society. He was in a constant whirlwind of social events, which made him stay. He decided to settle in England and rented a house in London where the social scene was more to his taste and within a driving distance to the countryside where he was welcome as a house guest in some of England’s great houses.

Now that his grandfather was gone, will the money still be deposited in his bank account? He was certain his father would make sure the money would be there. What if he was wrong? What would happen to him abroad? He could not continue his leisure life, hopping from club to club without the money from his grandfather. It was his means to luxurious living. The thought of not having enough money made him so depressed. Maybe that was the reason. Maybe the money would stop. He never thought of that before. He suddenly felt vulnerable and homesick. Maybe it was time for him to go home. He had been away for too long. Three years seemed like a lifetime. He had lived in England for two years of his three-year stay abroad. He contemplated living in England for the rest of his life, but of course, life was unpredictable and constantly changing.

It was unexpected that he was summoned to return home as soon as possible, leaving him no choice. At first, he did not think he wanted to go, but after some thought, he decided it was best to go home and find out what the telegram was all about. He suddenly realized that he was getting old and it was time to settle down. There were more things in life than the pursuit of empty pleasure. He had sown his wild oats. Enough of that already.

Time to get serious. Yes, he wanted to go home more than he realized. Once he made up his mind, he went back to bed and finally fell asleep.

The next morning Spencer woke up with the sun shining brightly. He got up and walked to the window. People were up and about, and he saw some people already strolling towards Hyde Park. He could smell the spring air. Spring blossoms were appearing everywhere.

He turned around and aimed for the bathroom. He saw Mr. Granger had already drawn the water for his bath. He undressed and dropped his nightclothes on the tiled floor. He dipped his toes in the warm water and sank into the tub.

After his bath, he put on his morning clothes, which Mr. Granger had laid out in his dressing room, and then he headed hurriedly downstairs.

“Good morning, Granger,” he greeted his butler, a man in his fifties, always appropriately attired in his butler’s uniform and took pride in his job as Spencer’s butler and valet at the same time. He loved his position, and he was devoted to Spencer, who he found to be a very pleasant employer who treated him very well.

“Good morning, sir. Did you see the telegram I left on the silver tray at the hall last night?” Mr. Granger asked.

“Yes, I did. Thank you,” Spencer said as he walked past Mr. Granger, who held the door to the dining room open.

The dining room was a gracious room painted a very pale yellow and was bright with light coming from the morning sun through the open window facing east. On one wall stood a Georgian sideboard with a pair of silver candelabra on both sides of a porcelain Famille rose punch bowl. Flanking the sideboard was a pair of armchairs in the Jacobean style. At the other end of the dining room was a marble fireplace with a roaring fire giving warmth to the room. Above the Hepplewhite dining table with ten chairs in Queen Ann’s style hung a crystal chandelier with a golden wire chain. A couple of hunting scene pictures graced the wall above the sideboard and the fireplace. The table was set for one person.

Mr. Granger had Spencer’s breakfast of buttered toast, marmalade, eggs, bacon, ham, and kippers ready on the table. Spencer sat on the chair, flipped his napkin, placed it on his lap, and started to eat.

He turned to Mr. Granger and said, “I have to send a telegram today and also see if I can book a passage to New York right away.”

Mr. Granger’s eyebrows shot up. After the initial shock, he asked, “You’re leaving, sir?”

“I’m afraid so. I have to,” Spencer said and continued eating.

“Does it have anything to do with the telegram?” Mr. Granger asked, suspecting it had something to do with it.

“Yes. Our family lawyer wants me home. It says ‘Urgent ’.”

“Urgent? Did it say why?” Mr. Granger was curious to know.

“No. No explanation. Anyway, I have decided it’s time to go back. I hope I can get a passage on the RMS Olympic. I love that ship. It’s the same ship I sailed coming over three years ago.” Spencer picked the last piece of bacon from his plate and chewed it.

“I heard it is like the Titanic,” Mr. Granger said solemnly.

“It is, but better and safer. The company put in so many improvements after the Titanic sank to improve safety. The number of lifeboats was increased from twenty to sixty-four, and extra davits were installed along the boat deck to accommodate them,” Spencer said.

“It’s terrible there were not enough lifeboats on the Titanic.”

Spencer nodded. “I agree. They learned a big lesson from the disaster. An inner watertight skin was also constructed in the boiler and engine rooms to create a double hull. Five of the watertight bulkheads were extended up to B-deck, extending to the entire height of the hull. I understand improvements were also made to the ship’s pumping apparatus.”

“That’s nice to know. It makes one feel at ease and worry free.”

“Exactly. The ship also has plenty of amenities that I enjoyed. The first-class section has a Georgian-style smoking room, a Veranda Café decorated with palm trees, a swimming pool, a Turkish bath, a gymnasium, and several other places for meals and entertainment. It has the most luxurious accommodation among the ocean liners. It’s a home away from home. Maybe even better.”

“That’s wonderful,” Mr. Granger said.

“I understand even the second-class facilities include a smoking room, a library, a spacious dining room, and an elevator. The third-class passengers even have reasonable accommodation compared to other ships. Instead of large dormitories offered by most ships, the third-class passengers of the Olympic travel in cabins containing two to ten bunks. Facilities for the third class also included a smoking room, a common area, and a dining room.”

“That sounds terrific.”

“Yes, it is,” Spencer said as he picked up his cup and drank his coffee.

Seeing Spencer almost finished with his breakfast, Mr. Granger asked hesitantly, “What are you going to do with the house?” He was afraid he would lose his job. He liked his employer, a fine young man, kind and generous.

“I have not made up my mind just yet. I would most likely break off the lease. I don’t know if I am coming back. Not for a long time anyway,” Spencer said and took another sip of his coffee.

Mr. Granger looked down, not knowing what to say. He felt depressed. He knew at this time in his life, it would be difficult for him to find a job, much less a good employer like Spencer Wentworth. It did not escape Spencer’s attention. Spencer realized his butler was worried about losing his job.

Mr. Granger and his wife, the cook, had been in service at his house for two years since he leased his home and were conscientious employees, and Spencer liked them. They were highly recommended by a friend who worked at the U.S. Embassy who knew Spencer’s father back in the States. Mr. Granger and his wife used to work for a young American couple who was recalled back to the States. At their first interview, Spencer took a liking to Mr. Granger, who seemed very pleasant but knew his place in the house hierarchy. Spencer hired him immediately, and the Grangers took good care of him, and he appreciated their loyalty and service.

“Granger, if you are worried about your position, I will try to find you and your wife a job with my circle of friends when I leave for the States. You should not worry about that. I will give you an excellent reference,” Spencer said.

“Thank you, sir. That is very kind of you. I do appreciate it very much.”

“You’re welcome.”

Mr. Granger beamed broadly. He noticed Spencer had finished his breakfast. He came closer to the table, cleared Spencer’s plate, and gave him the morning paper. He stepped back and left the room.

Spencer picked up the morning paper, glanced at the headline, and stood up. He headed to his study and drafted a letter to his solicitor in London, then left it on the silver tray on the hallway for Mr. Granger to have it delivered before he went out to answer Prescott’s telegram and book his passage to New York.

The Wentworth Legacy is available for purchase at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

Knollwood: The Estate and Its Owners

 

Knollwood 1

Knollwood with Garden Facade

“Knollwood”, one of architects ‘Hiss & Weekes’ most beautiful country-house commissions, was owned by a number of interesting personalities. It was built between 1906 and 1910 for Charles I. Hudson, a New York City stockbroker of the Gilded Age, at Muttontown on Long Island’s North Shore. The 60-room mansion had elements of Greek Revival, Italian Renaissance and Spanish styling with towering Ionic front columns with terraced garden and a dairy farm to satisfy his passion for raising Jersey cattle.

The house was palatially scaled and elegantly faced with smooth-dressed Indiana limestone, with design details borrowed from a variety of sources, including palaces and country estates by Palladio and Vignola built for Italian princes, and royal residences erected in France during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Inside, the house contained 30 rooms with paneling imported from England and marble fireplaces brought from Italy, as well as coffered Renaissance-style ceilings, much in evidence in the first-floor reception rooms.

Knollwood 2

Knollwood’s Interior

Viewed from the north, the most striking feature of “Knollwood” was its colossal entrance portico, balustraded across the top like the main block of the house and supported by four giant Ionic columns. In most other aspects, the north and south elevations were similar. At the ends of the two-and-a-half story main block of the house were single-story wings containing Palladian-style motifs such as arched French doors flanked by lower rectangular openings. Each of the wings, in turn, opened onto a deep loggia.

Knollwood 4

View from the North with Main Entrance Portico

Viewed from the south, the houses appeared to rest on a high basement, extending forward beneath the wide terrace at the back which overlooked the formal gardens. The terrace was reached from the gardens by grand staircases.

Knollwood 3

Landscape Design by Vitale & Geiffert

The formal gardens to the south of the house incorporated historical European precedents as well, especially in the grand scale and pronounced axiality. The landscape architect was Ferrucio Vitale. Like the great country houses of the British Isles and the villas of Northern Italy, the 150-acre estate devoted a large part of its land to commercial farming and pasturing. A stuccoed combination stable and garage building included space for 12 cars and apartments for chauffeurs, grooms, and gardeners. A poultry building and a hog house were also located on the estate, as well as an additional stable that housed farm horses, wagons, and implements. Accommodations included a boarding house for farm laborers, a cottage for the farm superintendent, and an additional cottage for agricultural workers. The presence in this farming complex of a large dairy barn for 140 head of cattle was not surprising in view of the fact that Charles Hudson took a lifelong interest in the breeding of fine Jersey cattle. A white-shingled guest cottage on the estate, designed in the Colonial Revival style, came with its own garage and stables.

Charles I. Hudson was successful and well-respected. He was elected to two terms as governor of the New York Stock Exchange. His tenure as head of C.I. Hudson & Company was not without its difficulties; the company was once sued by the brother of John D. Rockefeller and Hudson himself had his exchange seat suspended for a month following the assault of an exchange telephone operator.

Following Hudson’s death in 1921, Knollwood was sold to Gustavia Senff, widow of Charles H. Senff, director of the American Sugar Refining Company (later Domino Sugar). Mrs. Senff continued the philanthropy of her late husband, donating land in Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills for Mount Tom State Park and erecting Senff Gate at the University of Virginia (she was a native Virginian).

Charles Senff McVeigh, an attorney and co-founder of the New York law firm of Morris and McVeigh, inherited Knollwood as trustee following the death of his aunt in 1927. Besides his law practice and philanthropic causes, McVeigh was an avid sportsman. He helped to establish the American Wildlife Institute which, in part, aired radio programs about land and wildlife conservation. McVeigh sold Knollwood to King Gustav S. Zog of Albania in 1951 for approximately $102.800.

Zog bought the estate to establish a kingdom-in-exile for himself, his family and 120 members of his royal entourage staffed by Albanian subjects. But the fact is that Zog never set foot on the estate and caused disdain among his Long Island neighbors by refusing to pay property taxes. Legend has it that the king bought the estate for a “bucket of diamonds and rubies” and Zog’s riches were hidden in the mansion. Vandals ravaged walls in the mansion searching for gems hidden by King Zog. The mansion fell into total ruin.

The estate’s final owner, Lansdell Christie, had a hand in many enterprises before World War II. Christie attended West Point and began his own marine transportation business. As a transportation office in North Africa during the war, he learned about extensive iron ore deposits in Liberia. Following the war, he made a fortune mining iron ore by securing concessions to mine ore in the region, seeing to it that Liberia benefited from the development as well. Progressive in terms of racial views, he befriended Liberia’s president William Tubman and helped to found the Afro-American Institute. Christie was also involved in Democratic politics. He was the largest single Democratic donor for the 1956 Stevenson campaign and a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt.

By the time Lansdell Christie purchased Knollwood in 1955 from Zog’s parliament, the estate had suffered from years of neglect and vandalism. The terraced gardens were overgrown; the farm buildings were in disrepair. The local county works department of Oyster Bay pulled down the ruins of the home in 1959 for safety reasons. A garden pavillon remained for many years, progressively vandalized, until it was razed to its foundation, also for safety reasons. The most visible remains at the present time are the remnants of a double staircase to the old formal gardens, where traces of landscaping remain; some walkways disappearing under fallen litter and leaves, some columns, and the gate structure at the old entrance to the grounds. Seeing these remnants of this once magnificent mansions will certainly pique a hiker’s interest in the people who once lived there.

King Gustav S. Zog of the Albanians gets way too much credit and press for having owned the Knollwood Estate, the ruins of which are now part of the Muttontown Preserve in East Norwich with the gated entrance located on Jericho-Oyster Bay Road on Route 106.

All photos are from L.I. Country Houses and Their Architects, 1860-1940.

 

References:

Newsday Home Town

Wikipedia

The Freeholder, quarterly newsletter of the Oyster Bay Historical Society, Winter 2009

Long Island Country Houses and their Architects, 1860-1940

 

 

THE VILLAGE OF MILL NECK, NY – ONE OF THE PRICIEST PLACES IN THE U.S.

 

Old Grist Mill in Mill Neck

The name “Mill Neck” originated from the mill Henry Townsend built in 1661 with a grant from his fellow freeholders. The old saw mill at Mill Neck produced cut lumber in planks as well as turnings for balusters, columns and fence posts until few years before it was demolished in 1890.

The Village of Mill Neck, NY 11765 is located on the North Shore of Long Island in the Town of Oyster Bay. To live in Mill Neck, NY is to live in one of the most expensive addresses in the United States according to some exclusive magazine for the rich and the famous. Although I have my doubt to some extent. Forbes Magazine have listed Mill Neck as the third priciest address in the United States. Most likely because most of the wealthy homeowners are concentrated in that zip code.

I lived in Oyster Bay for 40 years and know the town and the surrounding areas very well. Mill Neck is right next to Oyster Bay and not all homes are in the million dollars price range. I know some friends who live in the area. Some are very wealthy and some are just ordinary folks.

The area that is called Mill Neck is a whole mix of areas. There are few streets very close to Oyster Bay which have a Mill Neck zip code and comparatively speaking have smaller houses on small property. Renville Ct. has a Mill Neck zip code but I will consider those as part of Oyster Bay. It is on the boundary of Oyster Bay and Mill Neck. Then there is the area called Mill Neck Estates which also have smaller lots and close to Bayville Bridge with mid-priced homes. The rest are all located in what I will call the real Mill Neck. These are the Mill Neck properties which get the most headlines as the most expensive homes in the United States having big mansions on huge properties.

Mill Neck is a lovely community with rolling hills and big properties. It overlooks Oyster Bay Harbor to the east, Mill Neck Bay to the north and Beaver Lake flows right in the middle toward the Mill Neck Bay. There is an ice skating rink near Beaver Lake. Shu Swamp Nature Preserve is close by near Francis Pond. Part of Mill Neck borders the Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park – a 400 acres state park. There is also a horse farm in the area.

 

Mill Neck Manor

The Mill Neck Manor (Picture above) looks like an English Castle. When my older son went to school in England, I sent him a postcard of The Mill Neck Manor. “Guess where this is? It’s here at home,” I wrote him. The Mill Neck Manor is located on a big property with a 35-room Elizabethan Manor House completed in 1927 for Mr. & Mrs. Robert Dodge. The whole manor house was imported from England and reassembled in Mill Neck brick by brick.

Mill Neck Manor by oldlongisland.com

Part of the ground of Mill Neck Manor in back of the manor house by oldlongisland.com

 

Apple Festival

The Apple Festival at Mill Neck Manor located close to the long driveway to the manor house. On the left is the Apple Festival and on the right is the parking spaces for visitors. The place is huge.

Later, it was sold to the Lutheran Friends of the Deaf in 1947 after Mr. & Mrs. Dodge passed away. It is now called the Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf where the annual Apple Festival is held every first weekend in October. The Village Hall is located on Frost Mill Rd. near the Mill Neck Manor.

 

Humes Japanese Garden.jpg

The John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden is located in Mill Neck. It is probably the best kept secret in town. Very few people know it is there. It is open to the public. It used to be owned by John P. Humes, a former Ambassador to Japan who brought the idea of Japanese Garden to his Mill Neck home. Now the garden is a preservation project of the Garden Conservancy.

There used to be a railroad station in Mill Neck which catered to the wealthy residents of Mill Neck during the Gold Coast era. Long Island Railroad closed the Mill Neck train station a few years ago due to the fact that only one passenger took the train from Mill Neck station. Most residents of Mill Neck either take the train from nearby stations in Oyster Bay or Locust Valley which are so close by.

Until next time. Let’s keep exploring Long Island.

Rosalinda